If you’ve never been to the Getty Center in Los Angeles before, you’ll be a bit surprised when you drive up to the parking lot… because you won’t see a museum there.
While the parking lot is on street level, the Getty Center itself is located in the Santa Monica Mountains. Once you’ve dropped off your car you have to take a (free) futuristic looking tram to get there. I thought this was quite unique and it immediately raised my expectations for our visit. Luckily, those expectations were entirely met.
The Getty Museum was founded in May 1954 by business man and writer J. Paul Getty, who had been acquiring European paintings, Roman and Greek antiquities and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French furniture and decorative arts since the early 1930’s.
Originally, the Getty Museum was housed in J. Paul Getty’s Ranch House in Malibu. In 1968, Getty announced his plans to re-create the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum there and construction works began in 1970. This new Getty Museum, which we now know as the Getty Villa opened it’s door to the public in January 1974. Up until this day the villa houses Roman and Greek art.
When Getty died, in 1976, he left a legacy of over 1 billion dollars. This money would be used to transform the Getty Museum into an internationally renowned institution of the arts. The scope of the museum was expanded, new collections were added, an art library founded and programs around conservation and preservation were organized.
It was at that point that plans for a new building arose. Antique arts would stay at the Getty Villa while the rest of the collections would move to a new center in the Santa Monica mountains, together with the other Getty projects. Construction works began in 1989 and eight years later the center opened to the public.
Visiting the Getty Center
At the end of the tram ride is the Getty Center. It’s not just one building, but a collection of several pavilions in the same style of which some are linked to each other so that you can walk from one building to the other without stepping outside.
All of these buildings are positioned around a central square from where you can reach the garden. The garden isn’t that big, but it’s very well kept and offers amazing views over Los Angeles. We already got some great views going up in the funicular, but those were nothing compared to the ones we got at the Getty garden.
When we were visiting there was an exhibition around the character heads by German artist Franz Xaver Messerschmidt. Cool about this exhibition was that there was also an interactive part where you had to go sit in front of a television screen which showed you several of Messerschmidt’s works. The goal was to copy the expression on the faces of the character heads… and have it captured on camera.
Behold the result:
Quite charming, don’t you think? The first one is my favorite.
What I really liked about the Getty was the variety in its exhibitions. We saw photography, decorative art, paintings and sculptures. Everything was presented in such a way that you didn’t have to wonder about how to walk next. Apparently the exhibitions also change often, which makes the Getty a place to go back to even more so.
At the end of our visit we had a look around the gift shop. I usually love museum gift shops because they often have a combination of ‘serious’ gift and more quirky things. At the Getty Center shop I bought a handbook of the Getty collections. I haven’t opened it once since I got back home from that trip over a year ago (until now, that is, writing this post), but I’m still very happy I bought it. It lies in plain sight in our living room and whenever I see it, it takes me back to our visit.
We were only there for a little less than two hours because we went in the evening before having had dinner, but I’d love to go back and spend some more time there next time I’m in LA.
Address: Attention! The official address is 1200 Getty Center Drive, but if you’re using GPS to get there, you have to enter 1200 North Sepulveda Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90049
- Tuesday–Friday and Sunday 10:00 am–5:30 pm
- Saturday 10:00 am–9:00 pm
- Closed Mondays, January 1, Thanksgiving and December 25
Parking: $15, 1$10 after 5 pm
Public Transportation: Metro Rapid Line 761 (see www.metro.com for route details – be aware that you need exact change to pay on Metro buses)
Good to know: You only have to buy one parking ticket if you want to visit the Getty Center and the Getty Villa on the same day.
Where to stay in Los Angeles
If you’re looking for an apartment rather than a hotel, I recommend checking airbnb. Sign up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!
How to get to LA
I flew from Brussels Airport to LAX via New York JFK and rented a car for the duration of my trip.
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